Mission Viejo ( is a commuter city located within Orange County, California, United States in the Saddleback Valley. Mission Viejo is considered one of the largest master-planned communities ever built under a single project in the United States and is rivaled only by Highlands Ranch, Colorado in its size. Its population as of 2014 was estimated at 96,346.
Mission Viejo is primarily suburban in nature and culture. The city primarily consists of residential property, although there are a number of offices and businesses within the limits of the city. The city is known for its tree-lined neighborhoods, receiving recognition from the National Arbor Day Foundation. The city’s name is a reference to Rancho Mission Viejo, a large Spanish land grant from which the community was founded.
Mission Viejo was purchased by John Forster, also known as “Don Juan,” an Englishman by birth who became a Mexican citizen During the Mexican–American War, Forster provided fresh horses to United States military forces which were used on the march of San Diego to retake Los Angeles.
Mission Viejo was a hilly region primarily used as cattle and sheep grazing land, since it was of little use to farmers. This city was one of the last regions of Orange County to be urbanized due to its geologic complexity. In 1960, early developers dismissed most of the land in Mission Viejo as simply “undevelopable”.
Donald Bren, an urban planner who later became the president of the Irvine Company, drafted a master plan which placed roads in the valleys and houses on the hills, and contoured to the geography of the area. The plan worked, and by 1980 much of the city of Mission Viejo was completed. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, houses in Mission Viejo were in such high demand that housing tracts often sold out before construction even began on them. The houses and shopping centers in the city are almost uniformly designed in a Spanish mission style, with “adobe”-like stucco walls and barrel-tile roofs. Many point to Mission Viejo as the first and largest manifestation of Bren’s obsession with Spanish architecture. Bren’s company was also the creator of the developments in Irvine and Newport Beach. The company expanded its operations and went on to build the Lakes project in Tempe, Arizona, Mission Viejo Aurora in Colorado and was the initial master planner of Highlands Ranch, both in the Denver Metropolitan area.
The seal of the city of Mission Viejo was designed and drawn by Carl Glassford, an artist and former resident of the city.
Mission Viejo is located at 33°36′46″N 117°39′22″W (33.612739, −117.656038).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.1 square miles (47 km2), 17.7 square miles (46 km2) of which is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) (2.12%) is water. A significant portion of the surface water is held in Lake Mission Viejo, an artificial lake stretching approximately one mile from Olympiad Road to Alicia Parkway along Marguerite Parkway.
Mission Viejo is located 49 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and 73 miles northwest of San Diego. It is bordered by Lake Forest on the northwest, Trabuco Canyon on the northeast, Rancho Santa Margarita and Ladera Ranch on the east, San Juan Capistrano on the south, and Laguna Niguel and Laguna Hills on the west.
Mission Viejo enjoys a borderline semi-arid/Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification BSh/Csa), with mild temperatures and plentiful sunshine year-round. Rainfall totals, which average around 14 inches (355 millimetres) annually are focused primarily in the months from November to March. Summer is very dry and virtually rainless, however thunderstorms do rarely occur. Due to the city’s proximity to the ocean, nighttime and morning clouds are fairly common, especially in the months of May and June, a weather phenomenon commonly known as June Gloom or May Gray.
Like most of Southern California, the city is prone to dry Santa Ana winds, which bring hot air from inland and punctuate the normally mild temperatures with noticeable jumps. For example, temperatures have reached highs of 90 °F (32 °C) and above throughout many months of the year, occasionally into the autumn months. Snowfall within city limits is very rare, however the nearby Santa Ana Mountains receive a dusting of snow every few winters. From 2012–2016, California experienced the worst drought in a century. However, California experienced more rainfall than expected in 2016 and ended most of the drought. Orange County was the last to have drought restrictions lifted.
Mission Hospital is the largest hospital in south Orange County and serves as the area’s regional trauma center. It also offers one of two Children’s Hospital of Orange County locations providing care for children.
Mission Viejo has numerous recreational areas such as the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Cente] there are about two parks per square mile. The city has three golf courses, The Mission Viejo Country Club, Casta del Sol Golf Course, and the Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club. At the center of the city is a man-made lake, Lake Mission Viejo, a private association for Mission Viejo residents with custom waterfront homes, condominiums, boat and paddle board rentals, fishing, and swim beaches. Lake Mission Viejo also holds events such as music concerts and movie screenings, usually complimentary for members and typically during the summer season.
The Shops at Mission Viejo and the Kaleidoscope Center serve as the city’s two main shopping, dining and entertainment centers. Both cater to an upper middle class customer demographic and feature family-oriented facilities and services.
Mission Viejo also hosts a number of athletic events such as 5K runs and triathlons throughout the year. The city holds a variety of annually recurring events to celebrate holidays including a street fair and fireworks for Independence Day and public decorations and interactive activities for children during the winter holiday season featuring representation for multiple popular religions.
Mission Viejo has a major youth athletic facility, Mission Viejo Youth Athletic Park. The park consists of eight baseball fields and five soccer fields. It is host to Little League District 68, AYSO Region 84, and four competitive soccer clubs: Pateadores Soccer Club, Mission Viejo Soccer Club, West Coast Futbol Club, and Saddleback United Soccer Club.
The Mission Viejo Nadadores Swimming and Mission Viejo Nadadores Diving Team won a string of national championships and produced a number of Olympians and world record holders in the 1970s and 1980s. Olympians included Shirley Babashoff, Brian Goodell, Larson Jenson, Maryanne Graham, Nicole Kramer, Casy Converse, Marcia Morey, Dara Torres, and Greg Louganis.
Mission Viejo hosted the Road Cycling Events during the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. The old O’Neill Road was renamed Olympiad Rd. in honor of the Olympic events in 1984.
There is also a soccer facility, now used by the town’s youth soccer program, that was used as a training field by the United States men’s national soccer team before and during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, hosted by the United States. Mission Viejo is the largest AYSO Region in the country.
The Saddleback College ballpark hosted the Mission Viejo Vigilantes minor league baseball team of the Western Baseball League from 1996–2001. Now the ballpark has a semi-pro collegiate team, the Orange County Fire.
Mission Viejo is also the hometown of NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez, Minnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes, and Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche, former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Don August, Boston Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig, Top Shot Season 4 Champion Chris Cheng, and PBA Tour Champion Scott Norton.
Mission Viejo is served by two school districts, the Capistrano Unified School District and Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Capistrano Unified serves the eastern, northeastern, and southern portions of the city with eight schools. As of 2006, all high school students in the Capistrano Unified portion of Mission Viejo attend Capistrano Valley High School. Students from western Mission Viejo (north of Oso Parkway and west of Marguerite until Alicia Parkway) attend Saddleback Valley’s Mission Viejo High School. Far northern Mission Viejo attends Saddleback Valley’s Trabuco Hills High School, though most of that school has students from Rancho Santa Margarita and Lake Forest. A few residents attend Tesoro High School in Las Flores or the private Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Silverado High School, Mira Monte High School, and Pathfinder are continuation and adult schools within the city. Silverado High School provides a day school environment while Mira Monte, which shares the same campus, is strictly independent study.
Saddleback College, near The Shops at Mission Viejo and Capistrano Valley High School, is a large community college in the southern half of the city. In addition, the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Soka University of America, and California State University, Fullerton (Irvine Campus), are nearby in adjacent cities.
La Tierra Elementary shut down in June 2009 due to budget cuts. It was chosen due to its small size and minimal student body. The school will remain closed until further notice. Mission Viejo residents refer to La Tierra as “The Little School with a Big Heart”. Students there are reassigned to Del Cerro Elementary.
O’Neill Elementary, the city’s first elementary school, closed in June 2009 also due to budget cuts in SVUSD. Students in the Deane Home community surrounding the school will be moved to nearby De Portola Elementary. Students living in the homes north of the lake will be moved to Melinda Heights Elementary in Rancho Santa Margarita.